Vietnamese man quits gaming, becomes country’s first ‘Half-Ironman’

Meet the first Vietnamese triathlete to qualify for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship

Pham Minh Quang at the 70.3 Subic Bay 2017 in the Philippines.

A barber’s mistake has prompted one young Vietnamese man to give up his gaming addiction in favor of a healthier lifestyle, becoming the first Vietnamese to win an official ticket to the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

The IRONMAN 70.3 is one of a series of long distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation.

The ‘70.3’ refers to the race’s total distance in miles, which is equivalent to about 113 kilometers, consisting of a 1.9-kilometer swim, a 90-kilometer bike ride, and a 21.1-kilometer run.

The IRONMAN 70.3 series culminates each year with a World Championship competition, for which competitors qualify during the 70.3 series in the 12 months prior to the championship race.

Pham Minh Quang, 30, has become the first Vietnamese triathlete to qualify for the race’s 2017 World Championship, to be held in the U.S. state of Tennessee this September.

Two Vietnamese athletes participated in the championship last year, but they were invited to the competition as an encouragement to nations like Vietnam, where the format has begun to gain popularity, rather than by qualifying.

At the 70.3 race in the Philippines last Sunday, Quang finished fourteenth among his age group, covering the 113-kilometer distance in five hours 50 minutes and 53 seconds, qualifying him for the World Championship.

It may come as a surprise to learn that only five years ago, after Quang had returned to his hometown in Hanoi after studying in France, he was still addicted to video games and had little interest in exercising.

“I was a rebellious young man at the time who liked to go a little Brad Pitt-esque with my hair,” Quang said. “Then one day my barber mistakenly cut it off. Angered and stressed, I put on my shoes and ran without thinking for over 20 kilometers. It was only after returning home from the impromptu run that I realized there was a gift in me for sports.”

From this first experience with running, Quang’s lifestyle changed for the better as he moved to work for an audit firm in Singapore.

The young man would spend every weekend of his first few months in Singapore running, and then began riding a bike at every opportunity to improve his stamina.

Despite living in Singapore, he participated in his first marathon race in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang in 2014.

“I almost passed out from the sheer pressure of the race,” Quang recalled. “I was only able to run the first 20 kilometers, and spent the remaining distance walking.”

Not wanting to confine himself to running, Quang began cycling and swimming in 2015 to prepare himself for triathlons.

Despite his result in the 70.3 qualifying race, Quang admitted that out of the three sports he hated swimming the most, as he did not know how to swim prior to 2015.

“I was scared to death in my first triathlon race in Da Nang,” Quang said. “There was a section of the swimming course that had no safety ropes. Midway through, I became exhausted but was forced to continue since there was nothing to hold on to.”

With perseverance and determination to finish what he starts, Quang has improved significantly across all three sports to become the first official Vietnamese competitor in one of the most physically demanding races in the world.

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